Lamenting the Social Fringe

Lamenting the Social Fringe - Brass Tack ThinkingSocial Media carries with it amazing possibilities. It connects, reconnects, and interconnects us with others in ways never before possible and in volumes that are downright frightening in scope. That in turn exposes new impacts on our societies, our businesses, and ourselves.

Most of those impact points are net positive. Some however, I’m not so sure. The problem with those who truly adopt social media into their lives at any depth (including myself) is that they very quickly learn a basic tenet of social media popularity…’Life is lived at the fringes’.

Life Is Lived At The Fringes

Not ‘real life’ mind you, but the crafted and manufactured version of our real lives. At the fringe exists those activities one might call ‘attention worthy’ in some way.

One end of the fringe contains those things we can post about that are ‘good’ like maybe you just got accepted to the college of your choice, maybe it was your kid who got accepted, maybe you’re experiencing an amazing sunset, whatever. These are the activities and events that we push and expose into social media because they are ‘deserving’ of having people respond with essentially “I’m so happy/jealous/excited for you!”.

At the other end of the fringe exists those items that are no less attention worthy, but for the opposite reason. Perhaps your pet died, maybe you’re sick, perhaps you had a horrible day. These items garner us our sympathetic responses that we crave. “Oh no!” “So sorry” “What can I do?”.

Access Of Evil

Neither of these types of fringes are evil by the way. These exceptional moments, whether dramatized, manufactured or quite literal, aren’t unique to social media. And frankly, there’s nothing particularly wrong about periodically needing these social reinforcements to our psyche regardless of how genuine they are. We all (admitted or not) utilize these fringes in all facets of our lives and it doesn’t make us bad people.

But when you setup an environment in which so much time is spent for many of us, an environment built around scaling relationships where attention is believed to be relative to popularity and success, then I have some unresolved concerns.

Life is what happens when no one is looking

The sticky problem with social media is that these fringes, these moments of exception, are often THE language of social media and now the norm. So here’s my question. If our lingua franca becomes one of primarily exceptional events (“I just made the most awesome lasagna”, “This story just broke my heart”, “Look at this amazing picture of where I’m at”, “Just had the worst day ever”) then where do we actually live our real lives?

When we draw time from those real-world relationships and apply it to social media, we tend to lose the mundane. The mundane is underrated in my opinion. The mundane serves your waking life the same thing your dreams serve your sleeping life. It provides a means of recharging, it gives context and relativity so that you actually know what an exceptional event IS. The joy or sadness that exceptional event should trigger within you should be one of experiencing the event itself, not simply recognizing it as something share-worthy.

To Truly Know Another

I love sharing parts of my life with you. But they are only parts. They are only those that I choose to let you see. Your truest ‘friends’ are not those who are aware of some special thing that just happened, they are the ones who know that you’re just sitting on your couch bored out of your mind.


Matt Riding – @techguerilla

  • mediasres

    Awesome question: ” If our lingua franca becomes one of primarily exceptional events (“I just made the most awesome lasagna”, “This story just broke my heart”, “Look at this amazing picture of where I’m at”, “Just had the worst day ever”) then where do we actually live our real lives?”

    But maybe Social Media does something else if we let it. Maybe the mundane suddenly becomes imbued, in the way that photography can imbue a small moment with beauty. When something mundane happens and we think to share it – I mean genuinely share it and not “Gee, this will get some RTs – don’t we start to see the small of our lives as fresh and worth.

    I guess it goes two ways. There is the photographer who never puts the camera down and just snaps and snaps and sees everything as grist for him frame. And then there is the photographer who uses his frame to uncover the beauty of the world all around him, so he can LIVE in it. Admittedly SoMe pushes for the first kind of capture, but it also seem to have potential for the second kind.

    • Matt Ridings – Techguerilla

      I think it’s a great point. Yes, social media has the ability to change our perspective much like the photographer sees the world differently because they’ve trained themselves to see through a virtual lens. Yet the metaphor breaks down I think when talking about life events in general. The photographer culls their thousands of unworthy photos so as to put forth only those that represent the best of their craft. That culling is a well understood fact by both the photographer and the viewer. The exact thing happens in social media, except we are culling or exaggerating our *lives* so as to represent who we want you to believe we are. The photographer takes tons of photos with the expectation that only a few will be great. I sincerely hope that we haven’t begun to view the mundane in our lives as something to be thrown away and without value.

      Thanks for the great comment!